Nobel laureate urges Yemen crackdown probe

Tawakkul Karman calls for International Criminal Court to investigate violent suppression of dissent by president.

Tawakkul Karman
Saleh will receive immunity from prosecution as part of the Gulf-brokered deal [Reuters]

Nobel peace laureate Tawakkul Karman has urged the International Criminal Court prosecutor to launch an investigation into the violent crackdown on dissent in Yemen by Ali Abdullah Sakeh, the country’s president.

Karman also called for a stronger mechanism for bringing to account leaders who turn on their own people to cling to power, saying her request over Yemen stands little chance of success since the country is not a member of the court.

Because Yemen has not signed the court’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, the only way the prosecutor could launch an investigation is if the UN Security Council requests hin to.

“This is unfair. They have to find a new way to bring everyone who is killing his people to here, to this building,” said Karman, who visited the court on Monday to present a file on crimes she said were committed by Saleh’s government. 

Meanwhile, police and plain-clothed pro-government forces shot and wounded three people on Monday in the southeastern province of Hedramawt as they protested high oil prices, the AFP news agency reported.

The 10-month confrontation between the government and its opponents has pushed Yemen, one of the world’s poorest countries, to the edge. Shortages of petroleum products and cooking as have hiked oil prices 200 and 200 per cent above official rates, respectively.

Basindwa appointed 

On Sunday, Yemen named Mohammed Basindwa, an opposition leader, as the interim prime minister under a deal aimed at ending months of protests that have brought the country to the verge of civil war.

The appointment of Basindwa in a decree by Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the country’s vice president, came as fighting between Sunni and Shia groups in Yemen reportedly left at least 25 people dead.

Basindwa, who served as foreign minister from 1993 to 1994, is to form the new government under a Gulf Co-operation Council-sponsored agreement signed in the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh.

The deal, signed last Wednesday, stipulates that Saleh must transfer his powers to his deputy Hadi, who is charged with calling the election within three months and forming a new government with the opposition.

Saleh has been in power for more than three decades but faced 10 months of massive anti-government protests,

On Saturday, Hadi called presidential elections for February 21.

General amnesty

Despite transferring his presidential powers, Saleh on Sunday decreed a general amnesty for all those who have committed errors during the crisis that has rocked the country since January and killed hundreds of people.

The announcement immediately angered opposition groups who said he can no longer take such decisions.

“This is in violation of the Gulf initiative by which the president delegated his powers to the vice-president,” Hurriya Mashhud, a spokesperson for the opposition, told the AFP news agency.

“He no longer has the right, nor the prerogative or the capacity to take such decisions,” she said.

Against this backdrop of political unrest, violence continued in the country’s north as Shia Muslim opposition forces attacked Sunni Islamist Salafi fighters with bursts of shelling, a Salafi spokesperson said on Sunday, a claim which could not be independently verified by Al Jazeera.

The shelling, which killed 10 people on Saturday, continued on Sunday afternoon, the Salafi spokesperson said, bringing the death toll to 25 with a further 48 wounded in the latest flare-up in Damaj, about 150km north of the capital, Sanaa.

The conflict in the north, where government troops also tried to crush Shia Houthi fighters before a ceasefire last year, is one of several plaguing Yemen which plans elections next year to replace Saleh.

Dayfallah al-Shami, a member of the Houthis’ political office, disputed the Salafi account of the fighting.

He told the Reuters news agency that Abdelmalek al-Houthi, the Houthis’ leader, had issued orders for a ceasefire but the Salafis rejected it and fought on.

Initiative opposed

The clashes followed a protest in the northwestern city of Saada on Friday, in which Shia Muslim protesters voiced their opposition to the GCC initiative, and called for Saleh to be put on trial.

In recent weeks, the Houthis have clashed with Salafi fighters, leading local tribal leaders to declare a truce between them.

It seemed to collapse on Saturday when, according to Abu Ismail Salafi, the Salafi spokesperson, Houthi fighters shelled the town of Damaj.

Members of the Zaidi sect of Shia Islam, the Houthi fighters led an uprising based in the Saada province that Saleh’s forces struggled to crush, with Saudi Arabia intervening militarily in 2009 before a ceasefire took hold the next year.

The Houthis, who effectively control Saada, are deeply wary of Saudi Arabia’s promotion of puritanical Sunni Salafi creeds that class Shias as heretics.

Source: News Agencies